4.28.2011

this is a post about my cat

my Francis Bacon triptych
boredom? irritation? its the way she looks every day
she's a jumper
video
a favorite sleeping position
stubborn
I think of this as her "token booth clerk" expression
First: I'm sorry. I vowed never to post about personal problems or about my cat. But, after quite a few years of blogging about Civil War dead, Picturesque ruins, the Eugenics Archive, word aversion, ephemera and punk music I listened to when I was 13, among other topics, I think its time I talked about Winkle. She's a handful and maybe some of you out there might have some insights.

Her face has a scrappy, street quality to it, sort of Eliza Doolittle before she becomes a Lady.
Her typical demeanor is somewhere between mild contempt and complete uninterest. If I didnt know she was a she, I'd call her Bluto. She knows and (usually) answers to "Winkle" but her sense of self  does not seem to encompass any interest in the creature she sees in the large floor-length mirror. (However, I might be several feet behind her in the room and catch her eye in the mirror. I wave and she invariably turns around to look at me. Does this mean she understands the spatial-reflection concept of a mirror? What's in front of her is really behind her?)

She's no talker—I dont think I've ever heard anything approaching "meow". Its more like a little bemused or surprised trill, "brrrrip?" She often makes a sound if she jumps up onto anything, "prrreeeep!

I got her as a month-old kitten or thereabouts, so I thought by hand-raising her surely she would become incredibly docile, and extra-loving— a lap cat. Not so much.
If you hit her she will hit you back. She is also very vehement about her likes and dislikes:
-- She does not like to be picked up. 
-- She does not like nail clippers, collars, carrying cases, doctors or certain food dishes.
-- Do not touch the feet!

-- She does not evince even passing interest in most food products produced for cats.
-- She understands the word "No" and does not like it.
If she hears it repeated with some force, as when it obstructs her from going out and roaming the hallway, she will hiss and sometimes take a swipe at my feet as she runs away. (I don't mind letting her roam the hallway except that she sometimes parks herself on welcome mats and darts into unsuspecting neighbors' apartments.) When she hisses by the way it's with such robust full-throated deliberateness you can feel the tiny gust of air.

She DOES like
-- salmon sushi (but not tuna) (Counter intuitively, she likes tuna casserole.)
-- chewing wool
-- playing with rubber bands (flinging them into the air frisbee-like)
-- being brushed. Especially while eating.
-- the sight and sound of emery boards. If I hold one up and swipe it across my nail she will come over to sit on my lap and purr.
-- to lie between me and my book.
-- to sit on top of me and purr when I go to sleep. That's proven difficult for me and we're still working that out.

4.22.2011

Romantic lighting

Adolph Menzel, Balcony Room, 1845. Menzel was well known in his day for sweeping nationalistic paintings.
He apparently made delicate views like this as personal studies and never exhibited them.
I find this one exceptional—like a Degas 25 years before its time.
Constantin Hansen, Danish artists in Rome, 1837
Georg Friedrich Kersting, Couple at the Window, 1815
Georg Friedrich Kersting, Woman Embroidering, 1811. This seems to reference Vermeer
Léon Cogniet, The Artist in His Room at the Villa Medici, Rome, 1817
Caspar David Friedrich, View from the Artist's Studio–Window on the Right, 1805-6
Georg Friedrich Kersting, In Front of the Mirror, 1827
attributed to Martin Drolling, Interior with View of Saint-Eustache, ca. 1810
Martinus Rørbye, View from the Artist's Window, 1825
I couldnt resist adding a photo of one of my windows
Henry Fox Talbot, Latticed Oriel Window at Lacock Abbey, 1835
Talbot produced a negative when he made the image—this is a print from his original I believe.
Online I came across an exhibit on at the Metropolitan— I have not yet seen it but it looks fantastic: Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century (April 5—July 4, 2011). It examines the Romantic motif of the open window captured by German, Danish, French, and Russian artists of the first half of the 19th century. Introducing these works with reference to genre painting, which stretches back to the 16th century, the exhibit's web site defines the open window theme more specifically: 
Juxtaposing near and far, the window is a metaphor for unfulfilled longing. Painters distilled this feeling in pictures of hushed, spare rooms with contemplative figures; studios with artists at work; and open windows as the sole motif. As the exhibition reveals, these pictures may shift markedly in tone, yet they share a distinct absence of the anecdote and narrative that characterized earlier genre painting.
Some of the images here are in the show, some are ones I gathered. There are differences here of framing and intent: some focus on the world beyond the room, some highlight the world at hand-- the room and its contents. Other images appear to be mostly about the light. I include one of the earliest photographs, made in 1835 by Henry Fox Talbot of a window in his home. By that time he would have been familiar with the Romantic conceit although I doubt that was what he was after when taking this.

I hope to update when I get to the show...

4.14.2011

pink and its burdens

The old man who lives here has been painting his house pink for decades. Its a particularly noxious shade.
I've always liked this building down on Grand Street. It's fate is in question.Below, random pinks
my classic pink bathroom
British paint company Farrow and Ball have an unusual take on pink.
From Color Standards and Nomenclature by Robert Ridgway, 1912
2 images of Jaipur "the Pink City"
delicate pale pink petit fours pass the aesthetic test
vintage wallpaper pattern from retrorenovation. Perhaps as an accent...
I love the idea of this color more than it's reality
Fuschia, the flower. There is also the Pink. I dont like either.
Mrs Lincoln's Solferino dinnerware, purchased at Haughwout's in NYC
I was thinking about pink. Its not a color I like particularly— or rather, there are just a few shades of pink that I actually like: pale pinks, coral pinks, grey pinks. Thus, having lost my slim black leather iPhone sleeve, it was galling to be forced into purchasing, for expediency's sake, an embarrassing 1980s-fuschia neoprene number. That was when I realized pink can be a particularly onerous color. It comes with a lot of baggage: Nazis, gay activism, indigestion, gum, cancer, lipstick, princesses, saccharine, porn and low-brow taste. There have been heated treatises on how social conditioning has corralled the sexes into blue/pink ghettoes. And isn't it always the pink house the neighbors complain about? That pink brownstone at the top of the page is right around the corner from me. It has been that way for so long even the landmarks commission looks the other way. Its famous (just google "pink building" and it'll be one of the top returns) so people don't really get too worked up now.

Not too long ago the New York Times had
an article about how the pink bathroom, reviled relic of the late 1940s-1950s, is making a comeback. I happen to have a classic pink bathroom which I quite enjoy—its more of a warm blush or shell pink rather than the cold, dare I say more vulgar, cherry pinks I associate with the 1960s. The people behind SavethePinkBathrooms.com are not discriminating enough in my opinion.

Pink had one of it's heydays in the late 1970s/early 80s, with Fiorucci, New Wave and neon. I
n high school had a pair of neon pink ankle socks I wore with black pumps. Another high point for the color was in the 1930s with Elsa Schiaparelli's "shocking" pink. I would decline to wear either color these days.

Probably one of the biggest events in pinkdom was the "discovery" of the purplish pink Magenta and it's lesser known fraternal twin, the pinkish purple Solferino.
Both, oddly, named after towns in Northern Italy that experienced exceptionally bloody battles (on June 4 and June 24, 1859, respectively) during the Italian war of Independence (Solferino alone seeing 40,000 casualties in a single day). The colors were created out of coal tar— or something like that— shortly after the battles and named in recognition. So during the early 1860s ladies were magenta mad, with even Mrs Lincoln buying a dining service in Solferino.

Pink is one of the few (the only?) colors that has changed color: at one time it designated a
yellowish green. It is also one of the few names used as a verb (decorate with a perforated pattern or zigzag edge, cf. pinking shears), but that is from another etymological root of the word. In fact there are so many variations on the origin of pink— ships, winking, small size, perforations–its too much to go into here.

4.12.2011

Photo-Lettering in the House!

A design FYI: House Industries, those master purveyors of retro design, Planet of the Apes font packages and tiki glasses have come up with something that could turn out to be super exciting: customized, downloadable display type setting. The fact that this venture is based on the collection from the old Photo-Lettering type house—an industry mainstay from 1936 until 1997, officially, but really it gave up the ghost in the late 80s— makes it really appealing for typographers, type hipsters, and old-timers*. This was touted a couple years ago but I think it is only just now live.

Set your headline in one of the types offered on the site, pay a relative pittance et voila! download scalable vector files. You can even get subscription access for multiple settings and downloads. In 2003, House Industries purchased Photo-Lettering's files and holdings. They then digitized some of the 6000+ faces in the Photo-Lettering catalog and created the really clever interface—see directly above. You can alter widths and weights on certain types, choose colors for shaded or two-tone faces. Currently there are only about 42 faces available, however, far too few for my taste. Unless you really want to set a lot of type in "Kerpow".

Dont miss the history section for lots of pics and great info about the original Photo-Lettering.


*Speaking of old timers, I was just telling a type friend how the old brown and white Photo-Lettering catalog used to depress me at my first real design job. It sat on the shelf and exuded brownness. It was fluorescent lights and polyester in book form. It featured many of the somewhat vulgar typefaces (like Harry Fat or Mistral) that we—classically minded, tasteful, modernist-inflected designers for a Cultural Institution—weren't supposed to give the time of day to. Now that it has been resurrected, it all seems so fun and lively!

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